Social Enterprises Combine to Revitalize Hilltop Building

John Rush and Kenny Sipes. An historic Hilltop building is getting a new life. Photo by Susan Post.
An historic Hilltop building is getting a new life, courtesy John Rush (left) and Kenny Sipes. Photo by Susan Post.

John Rush and Kenny Sipes, two well-known names in Columbus’ social enterprise community, are working together to bring new life to an historic bank building in the Hilltop neighborhood. What follows is a selection of their interview with Susan Post for Columbus Underground.

The building at 2374 W. Broad St. has seen a lot of life. Since its construction in 1928, it’s been a bank, a pet store and served as a storage facility for an auction house. And now the address can count coffee roasting facility and used book shop amongst its ranks.

Roosevelt Coffee Roasters, the roasting arm for Downtown and Franklinton coffee shops The Roosevelt Coffeehouse, has moved its operations to the Hilltop building and soon it will be joined by Kennedy Used Books, run by social entrepreneur John Rush.

“We love being in Franklinton because of what it could do for that area economically, so to be in another area of town that’s trying to find its footing is a positive thing for us to be a part of,” says Kenny Sipes, Roosevelt founder and owner.

Rush had initially heard that there was a group of folks interested in building up this particular area of the Hilltop and became part of the investment group that purchased the building. He also knew that Roosevelt was roasting on borrowed time in its previous facility. As soon as Rush offered Roosevelt a look at the Hilltop space, Sipes knew they’d found their new location. It’s only marginally larger than their old spot, but, “The openness has changed the game for us,” Sipes says.

Since the growth and renovation of Third Way Cafe, Rush had been looking for a new home for his used book collection. It will now live in this building as Kennedy Used Books. The book shop will be many things. Mirroring the work of Rush’s other social enterprises, there will be a supportive re-entry element tied in, such as finding a way to support the library system within the prison system through the shop. Additionally, they’ll look to partner with the local library on other literacy programs.

The shop will also be a space where local authors can be celebrated and highlighted; a place where people can have conversations; a spot where folks can sit and read or work for awhile.

As a good cup of coffee and a good book often go hand-in-hand, Rush says they’re exploring options like Third Way Cafe providing complimentary drip Roosevelt Coffee for bookstore patrons. Roosevelt’s not currently brewing on site, but has built the capacity to do so in the future with the potential to do barista trainings, cuppings and other events.

Roosevelt Roasters is currently up and running in the space, while Kennedy Used Books is aiming for a late April opening.

Read the full interview on Columbus Underground.

If you have books in good used condition that you would like to donate, Rush is accepting donations at Third Way Cafe at 3058 W Broad St, Columbus, OH 43204 until Kennedy Used Books is open.